The Social Enterprise Mark Guest Blog is moving!

Click to read the latest Guest Blog!

The Guest Blog is moving, you can see the new location here:

The current blogs will be deleted in due course, so don’t forget to bookmark the new location, or you can get updates about the blog by signing up to the Social Enterprise Mark newsletter:

The Social Enterprise Mark Managing Director, Lucy Findlay’s blog is also moving to:


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What does Social Enterprise Mark mean to the University of Salford?

This article was first published on 23 September 2014 on the University of Salford blogsite, see

The University has identified social impact and social value as core elements of our mission through the new University Strategic Plan. Our commitment to social business and its values has resulted in the University being awarded the Social Enterprise Mark – only the second university in the UK to achieve this public recognition.

The Social Enterprise Mark is the only international certification for social enterprises and it enables the University of Salford to differentiate itself from other Universities by proving we are working or ‘trading for people and planet’, reinforcing the University’s brand values.

What does Social Enterprise Mark mean to students and staff at the University of Salford?

Social Enterpise Mark reactions

Social Enterprise Mark certification

Lucy Findlay, MD of the Social Enterprise Mark stated that

“The Certification Panel was very impressed with the breadth and quality of the work that the University of Salford are doing in the social enterprise arena.

They also felt that it was truly embedded in the ethos and culture of the organisation – an example of good practice”.

Chris Dabbs, Director of Innovation, at Unlimited Potential

In response to hearing about the University’s award, Chris Dabbs, Director of Innovation, at Unlimited Potential commented that

“being awarded the Social Enterprise Mark reflects the active interest that the University is taking in social enterprise, including its increasing engagement with local social enterprises that draws on its own strengths.

I hope that we can develop further together and achieve greater social, economic and environmental impact that benefits local people”.

Hazel Blears, Labour MP for Salford and Eccles, said:

“This award recognises the university’s long-standing commitment to promoting social enterprise and is richly deserved.

Through its new Centre for Social Business the university is now helping to encourage organisations of all kinds to make a positive difference in their local communities”.

Salford Business School’s Centre for Social Business
The members of the Centre for Social Business demonstrate a strong record of internationally recognised research and features partnerships with policy makers, practitioners and the wider community to produce relevant and influential research that impacts on social business issues affecting today’s society.

Dr Morven McEachern (Director for Centre for Social Business) believes that the
“Social Enterprise Mark certification provides a distinctive opportunity for the University to play a central role in working and trading for good with regional SMEs as well as actively promote social enterprise to our students”.

Colin McCallum, Executive Director, University Advancement at Salford said

“we are determined to build on our long history of social engagement and impact and to become recognised as the leading university in this. Securing the Social Enterprise Mark is an important further step on the journey that allows us to live our mission and values”.

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From co-ops to culture: How community-led regeneration has changed Dalston

This blog by Dominic Ellison, was originally published in New Start, see


As London’s east end undergoes significant gentrification, a co-operative is helping embed community ownership, ensuring locals aren’t priced out of their homes and businesses. Dominic Ellison explains:

Hackney Co-operative Developments has been leading bottom-up, community-led regeneration in Dalston for over 30 years.

It began in 1982 when a group of Hackney-based members of a local housing co-op wanted to support other local housing co-op residents to set up in business.

Since then we have targeted our support where we knew it would have the most lasting impact on the local community, with a focus on its economy.

Our remit has expanded, from supporting people wanting to start co-operatives to helping thousands of individuals set up new businesses and find a better route out of poverty than low-paid and exploitative employment.

We have developed a significant footprint of commercial property in the local area, made a strong contribution to the urban physical regeneration of the area through creating iconic buildings and public space, and have been a catalyst for the area’s cultural renaissance.

The rise of Dalston: Regeneration and gentrification
Since 2001 our area has experienced a rise in the proportion of people in professional occupations and in self-employed professionals.

Not long ago, Dalston was a no-go area, but now more than a quarter of our residents are between 20-29 years old – that is 9% higher than London as a whole – and we have an increasingly professional and younger population.

This goes hand on hand with the large rise in average prices of flats in Dalston, up 13% since just 2009, which is also largely supported by our improved transport links. Hackney as a whole has become an area of growing economic opportunity as a result of the increased focus on east London.

However, this growth sits alongside significant deprivation. Local people continue to face persistent inequalities and are disproportionately affected by child poverty, worklessness and welfare dependency. Dalston remains one of the UK’s 10% most deprived wards, with a 10% higher proportion of dependant children receiving tax credit in lone parent families compared to Hackney borough as a whole. In total 10% of our residents are long-term unemployed and this has remained unchanged over 13 years.

The upward economic path we see in Dalston is not distinctly targeting our local population, but is in large part a result of new people from higher socio-economic demographics moving in and changing our local balance.

Vastly increasing price tags on our homes may well be helpful to long-term residents looking to sell-up and leave, but is not supportive of families growing up, whose children want to stay in their communities when they set up homes of their own. We have seen a 17% reduction in the proportion of people who own their own homes, and falling home ownership means a more transient community. It is notable that much of Dalston’s new housing stock is being bought up by foreign investors as buy-to-let investments.

Rising property prices affect the commercial sector too. With more affluent customers in the local area, we have become more attractive to big business, and brands like Starbucks are now starting to make an appearance. This has a upwards impact on commercial property values, which has a negative impact on local people looking to start up a new enterprise, as premises often represent the largest annual outgoing for new businesses.

Locking in community wealth
The rise in property values and increased gentrification mean that the property portfolio built up by Hackney Co-operative Developments over the years is now even more significant. By rehabilitating derelict housing stock and factories, upgrading under-used commercial space and developing local landmarks like Dalston Culture House, we have been able to establish business hubs totalling nearly 80 individual workspaces, shops, cafés, bars, restaurants, clubs and music venues in the very heart of this thriving town centre, all of which are made available at affordable workspace rates.

These house independent businesses owned by local people, co-operatives, social enterprises and cultural organisations, some of which have grown incredible international reputations, such as the Vortex Jazz Club and Circleline Design and all of which are deeply rooted in Dalston’s community.

Local ownership of businesses provides for a stronger and more resilient local economy, as reams of studies evidence. Local businesses are more likely to employ local people and to purchase goods and services from other local organisations, delivering the multiplier effect of keeping money within the local economy.

The very make-up of our own organisation guarantees that this provision remains an accessible resource for local people. Our asset lock ensures that the stock cannot be sold off, other than to invest in improved commercial premises for local economic development. Our organisation is democratically controlled, transparent and accountable to the community it serves, the community it is made up of.

We want to grow the proportion of the local economy that is owned by the community as opposed to shareholders.

All those who live or work locally and believe in our co-operative principles and ethos and support community-led economic regeneration can apply to become members. Our members appoint our board democratically each year and our board is made up of community leaders, representatives of the co-operative and trade union movements, the social enterprise sector and the businesses and community groups that seek our services. How many other commercial landlords would appoint their tenants to make up the substantial proportion of their board?

This ensures that every penny of surplus we make is directly invested back into our community, by expanding and improving the commercial property base, supporting the development of local, social and community enterprise and providing community organising and cultural enrichment in our public space, Gillett Square, which has received a great deal of critical enthusiasm from across the world (we regularly welcome delegations of policymakers, practitioners, students and journalists from Korea and Scandinavia to learn from us and have won a number of awards including World Architecture News’ Effectiveness Award).

Embedding democratic governance
When supporting the establishment of new social and community organisations we strongly promote the importance of democracy and accountability. It is for us the cornerstone of good governance. In our new development support programme, Pioneering social enterprise in Hackney, we are delivering support to co-operatives and social enterprises that can demonstrate that they are rooted in Hackney, that they are serving a demonstrable good for society, and that the ownership and control is shared and democratic.

We want to grow the proportion of the local economy that is owned by members or the community as opposed to shareholders. We want to see more socially-owned organisations in Hackney, and for more people to buy from locally-owned co-operatives and social enterprises so that we can see more money staying in the local, social economy. The sticky effect created by spending with local organisations builds stronger, more resilient communities, and democratising ownership gives communities genuine control over how this sticky money helps them to thrive.

Later in the year we will be launching a ‘Pioneering Social Enterprise in Hackney’ quality marque which recognises the organisations that are already doing this for Hackney.crowd members 32

A feature of our work that has proven contentious for some is our insistence on democratic community ownership, which means that the support we offer is at the exclusion of some individualist social entrepreneurs who are genuinely achieving good things for society.

We are however unapologetic about this as we fully recognise the fundamental importance of a shared participatory system of governance in ensuring any organisation will endure its lifetime in the interests of the community it serves and is not vulnerable to market forces.

Whether supporting a start-up, growing or changing enterprise, we frequently spend as much time helping to develop the governance systems as we do the business planning and financial modelling. This focus on participatory democracy for community organisations has certainly been proven to be successful for Hackney Co-operative Developments for over 30 years of sustainability, supporting countless organisations that have contributed it the vitality and viability of the local community, and we look forward to 30 years more.

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Businesses that create environmental, social and financial returns are better for Britain

Gareth Hart of Iridescent Ideas, has written a guest blog about the importance of social enterprise in society.

You can read the blog below – it was also published originally on the Iridescent Ideas blog.
“So you’re a social enterprise, eh? What does that mean then?” How many times have you been asked that question? How many times have you answered it but still aren’t convinced that they questioner has ‘got it’ or believes it?

The debate about the definition of social enterprise may well seem jaded and old news to those of us within the social enterprise community but it seems that a large proportion of the general public didn’t even realize there had been a debate going on! So the aforementioned question comes up time and time again. If we want to establish new audiences for social enterprise and push the concept into a wider public consciousness it is vitally important to maintain a public dialogue about ‘what is a social enterprise’.

No one really seems to question you in the same way if your business is a charity or Fairtrade or eco-friendly. There is an automatic assumption these are ‘good’ things. People know what these terms mean. They come with a nice badge, logo or number that tells the public they’ve been checked out and do indeed do what they say on the tin. If only there was a similar thing available to social enterprises…

Enter the Social Enterprise Mark. The Mark is the social enterprise equivalent of the Fairtrade logo or the Charity Commission number. The Social Enterprise Mark provides:

*A clear definition of what constitutes a social enterprise
*An instantly recognisable ‘stamp of approval’ to show that your business has been independently assessed and meets criteria to justifiably call itself a social enterprise
*A national community of like-minded ethical businesses for social enterprises to engage with
*A range of other benefits around marketing and support.

There is growing interest in the Social Enterprise Mark, particularly among large organisations like universities. Plymouth University is the first social enterprise university and has held the Mark since 2012. Another university is set to join next month. Many of the large health spin-outs also hold the Mark. These organizations provide services to huge numbers of people and have strong roles in public life in their respective towns, cities and areas. We would like to see more large healthcare providers really engage with the public around understanding that they are receiving great services from a local social enterprise. The Mark could help them do this.

As the social enterprise sector, and public awareness of it, continues to grow, so we hope the Social Enterprise Mark will continue to flow into public consciousness and eventually become as recognizable as the Fairtrade logo. The Mark will evolve, we are sure, and we need an ongoing dialogue about what it means to be a social enterprise both within and outside the sector.

With the introduction of the Social Value Act in 2013 there is a requirement for social value and impact to be given more weight within commissioning of services. Consumers are looking to purchase ethical goods and for businesses to behave better. Surely then, the time is right for the Social Enterprise Mark to become a stamp of social value so that commissioners and customers alike will recognize social enterprises and be able to make more informed choices about the goods and services they buy and use.

At Iridescent Ideas CIC we believe that social enterprises are better for the economy and for society. Social enterprises create wealth and jobs and also deliver environmental and social value. The Mark can be the guarantee that proves this.

Gareth Hart, Iridescent Ideas CIC

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The rollercoaster of grass roots fundraising in a challenging economic climate

Over the last 9 months, Celia Willet, Fundraiser at the Southville Community Development Association (SCDA), a registered charity and proud Social Enterprise Mark holder, has been co-ordinating a fundraising project in association with Aardman Animation.

SCDA embarked on the unique fundraising project, “Gromit Unleashed” in the summer of 2013, with the aim of raising money for The Grand Appeal, in aid of the Bristol Children’s Hospital charity, and to raise money to improve the community garden at the Southville Centre, an independent community centre run by the SCDA.

Aardman and The Grand Appeal, were offering Bristol schools and charities the opportunity to benefit from 50% of any money raised from the sale of a series of 2ft high Gromits, which would be exhibited in a “fringe” trail alongside the Bristol based “Gromit Unleased” city wide trail of 81 individually designed 4ft high statues.

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Why managing impact data provides competitive advantage

Recently in conversation with someone involved the world of community music I had to repeat the phrase “non-grant funded, profitable social enterprise” not just because it didn’t trip off the tongue, but because people aren’t used to hearing those words in the same sentence. I ascribe our status to two things: firstly, quality of provision and secondly, that which this blog is primarily about, good collection and use of impact data.
When we were starting Noise Solution we got lucky, and received some of the best business advice available in the social enterprise field. The main driver of that early advice – that still rings true every day – was that to sell services to customers it is crucial to be able to prove that what you do is effective. Not that surprising maybe, but you’d be amazed how many organisation can’t do this.

Storytelling and qualitative data
Noise Solution works by making people good at something, quickly and then sharing that success through social media. That social media interaction enables us to bring into our work family, peers, professionals – all those that should be involved when taking a holistic approach to working with hard to reach or chaotic people.
Our starting point then is qualitative data. We want to be able to tell and show the stories of transformation we are seeing. Blogging has been a core part of our model (see why here) enabling us to capture evidence of ‘soft successes’ and share that success easily. It’s been instrumental in our ability to raise client’s levels of confidence, a great way to capture and demonstrate how effective our work is and a great source of stories and real life examples. It’s also used as evidence for clients who are working towards Arts Awards qualifications.
The blogs make great stories, engaging narratives and occasionally gripping reading. That’s only half the story though – especially where commissioners are concerned. We need more than just blogs to demonstrate our value and secure increasingly large contracts.

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Pluss is Disability Confident

Pluss and SEQOL were delighted to be co-sponsors of Disability Confident, an event targeted at employers to promote the benefits of employing people with a disability.

The event, held at the STEAM Museum in Swindon, was designed to increase confidence among employers to recruit and retain more of the 83,000 disabled people in the region who are not currently in work.

More than 200 representatives of local businesses, public sector organisations, politicians and community leaders attended the event.

Left to right: Paul Hanman, Pluss Job Broker; Jeanette Grant, SEQOL Operations Manager; Gillian Ireson, Pluss Swindon Manager; and Simon Weston OBE

The event was opened by Mike Penning, the Minister of State for Disabled People, and followed by a range of powerful, motivating speakers, including Falklands’ veteran and businessman Simon Weston.

Simon’s speech was moving, funny and at times very sad. He spoke with candour about learning to rebuild his life after the Falklands. At one point he recounted his experiences with his Resettlement Officer who (two years after his return from war) told him he was “totally unemployable”. At this point the audience fell into a stunned silence. How could this charismatic, intelligent and articulate man could be anything other than a total asset to an employer?

There were also several superb speeches from employers including Wiltshire Police Force, Honda, FMW Recycling and Swindon Borough Council. They spoke of the business benefits to be gained by employing disabled people and the importance of ‘thinking outside the box’.

John Flynn, Deputy Head of Contact Management for Wiltshire Police, summed it up a perfectly “Some managers don’t want to think out of the box and look at their own processes to see how they could be flexible to help people who may need that extra support. What I hadn’t done at that point was take a look in my own world, I realised that they was lots of tasks that Robert could fulfil for us, and that is where Robert is now, adding value to my department every day he comes to work.

“It’s actually really simple! All of these things are within your gift as Managers or recruitment people – to think outside of the box, challenge your cultures but most of all create those opportunities that are within your grasp and help disabled people give something to your organisation… because they can.”

During the lunch hour, with delicious food provided by SEQOL’s own catering business, delegates were able to watch and take part in the fast and furious wheelchair rugby session.

At the end of the day delegates were asked to leave pledges about how they would do things differently once they went back into work.

The event was closed by a very powerful performance of “As I am” by Jordan Statham, a student at Glasshouse College in Stourbridge. There was not a dry eye in the house!

This spectacular event, was the first of its kind in the South West. Pluss will be hosting several local Disability Confident events across the South West and Yorkshire throughout 2014… watch this space!

For more information on Pluss visit and SEQOL visit

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